Lonely Planet Writer

Penguin travels 5000 miles each year to see Brazilian pensioner who saved him

A penguin raised by a Brazilian pensioner travels 5,000 miles every year to reunite with his soulmate.

The heartwarming story began five years ago when Joao Pereira de Souza, 71, a retired bricklayer, rescued the South American Magellanic penguin on an island just off Rio de Janeiro. The struggling little animal was covered in oil and close to starvation when Joao took it under his wing. The Sun reports that the former tradesman nursed the penguin back to health, working constantly for a week to get the sticky black residue out of the bird’s feathers. It was the start of a man-penguin friendship that was to grow and grow.

Given the name Dindim by his human friend, the animal stayed until the breeding season in Patagonia. He was then released back into the wild by Mr Pereira de Souza, who said he didn’t expect to encounter his feathered friend again. However the animal returned later that year, and every year since, to be with the pensioner for up to eight months at a stretch.

It is estimated that Dindim undertakes an annual swim of up to 5,000 miles just to stay with Mr Pereira de Souza. The septuagenarian says he loves the penguin as if it is his own child, adding that he is happy that the animal loves him in a similar fashion. The penguin pecks humans if they touch him but he snuggles into Joao’s lap, allowing his master to pick him up and both feed and shower him, according to Yahoo News. The Daily Mail reports that penguins are normally stressed out by the sight of people approaching but Dindim shows no fear when the two are together.